NEW CUMBERLAND - Hancock County Schools' efforts to prepare vocational students for the work world recently got a boost from the private sector.
The John D. Rockefeller IV Career Center received a $7,500 grant from steel giant ArcelorMittal, which operates a mill in Weirton, for the purchase of equipment and for academic scholarships.
The equipment will support the school's welding, building construction and electronics programs, said Martin Hudek, director of secondary, adult and career education for Hancock County Schools.
"We are extremely grateful for the cooperation and vision of ArcelorMittal. It's a step in the right direction," Hudek said, noting that the steel manufacturer also is the school's business partner.
The school has ordered, among other things, a portable crane and hoist, automatic drill bits and an oscilloscope with the grant money, Hudek said. The grant also will allow the school to give $600 scholarships to students in the welding, building construction and electronics trades.
"One student from each area will be given a cash award to further their education," he said.
Hudek said the equipment on-order will keep the school competitive and current in the fields for which it provides training. "This is something that became necessary due to the ... new technologies that are needed for the energy industry that's developing in our area," he said.
Having ArcelorMittal as a business partner also will give the school an advantage, he said. "The biggest component they offer is their business experience," he said. "They not only know what's required, they have programs in place that they can discuss with students."
One of those programs is the Steelworker for the Future program that ArcelorMittal offers through West Virginia Northern Community College in Weirton.
The Career Center also recently learned that it was one of nine West Virginia schools chosen to participate in a pilot project that simulates workplace conditions.
"The students in these classes will be treated as if they're actually going to work, not just going to school," Hudek said.
Hancock County was selected by the West Virginia Department of Education to participate in the program, which, if the grant funding is approved, will begin in the fall.
The state department should know by March whether its grant application with the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation in Pittsburgh has been approved, said Liza Cordeiro, spokeswoman for the department of education.
Hudek said the simulated workplace program will be available to welding and building construction students. "When they get off the bus, they'll be going to class but they'll be treating it like they're going to work that day," he said.
Hudek said the Career Center got more good news recently when it learned that its recently-launched truck driver training program will be open to Ohio residents. Students from Jefferson County will now qualify for financial aid, he said.
Previously, only West Virginia students could receive financial aid for the commercial driver's license program, which began in October. District officials had been awaiting approval from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Hudek said he expects Columbiana County to be approved next.
The 12-week program prepares adult students to take the CDL test and to be hired for an entry-level driving position.